Program Prioritization findings presented to Board of Regents

CU-Boulder, UCCS studies offered first in systemwide study

Leadership at two CU campuses presented findings from their Program Prioritization studies at Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Regents at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus.

Regents last year requested the evaluations to be undertaken at all campuses; CU Denver l Anschutz Medical Campus continues work on its efforts.

Regent Kyle Hybl, who led the committee looking at the matter, thanked all faculty, staff and administration for their work on the reports, which generally listed academic and non-academic programs from highly effective or exemplary down to those less effective or needing further review.

The CU-Boulder report was presented by Chancellor Philip DiStefano; the UCCS report was presented by Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak.

“I don’t think it’s a process that is ever over,” Regent Glen Gallegos told the chancellors. “You’ve set up a process for continuous improvement, which I think is important.”

Some board members voiced concern about the information not going deep enough – to the point where specific courses could be identified as possible areas of curtailment.

Regent James Geddes said he’s worried that the information presented by the Boulder and Colorado Springs campuses doesn’t drill down to the curriculum level, where meaningful decisions could be made.

“One of the goals of all this is to see if we cannot streamline our services to our students and be more efficient with their dollars,” Geddes said. “This may have some benefit, but I’m concerned it’s a bit too big of a picture.”

Regent Steve Bosley asked whether the studies had yet determined areas for potential cost savings. Shockley-Zalabak and DiStefano said they and campus leadership are examining duplicated processes that could be averted to realize savings. DiStefano noted that the Office of Contracts and Grants decided to go paperless after the evaluation; he said outsourcing may be considered in other areas as a way of lowering costs, as well as making more efficient use of existing space on campus.

Still, Geddes said he hoped to see efforts made to reduce the number of core classes offered.

“I was hoping this would be one of our primary strategies to reduce the cost of higher education,” Geddes said. “Why should a student pay for some Mickey Mouse course that others are taking just to get out of a requirement?”

DiStefano said academic rigor is among the criteria considered when evaluating courses and is key to whether or not a course remains an offering. As for easing student costs, he said, “I believe our initiative to increase the graduation rate is going to help us save money for our students more than anything else.”

CU-Boulder has stated a goal of increasing its six-year graduation rate from 68 percent to 80 percent.

“That’s going to take better advising, looking at core curriculum, making sure students can take courses and get them when they need them," DiStefano said. "To me, that’s one of our primary goals, that we can get more students out of the university more quickly.”

Shockley-Zalabak said that courses with low enrollment numbers at UCCS already undergo review, and that consistently low enrollment results in discontinuation.

Regent Irene Griego said curriculum should be considered carefully in such evaluations. “We need to look at it from that broad perspective of what students need to do to be competitive in the world when they graduate,” she said.

Some findings from the CU-Boulder Program Prioritization:

Cited as “highly effective” academic programs were: Psychology, Integrative Physiology, Sociology, Education, Economics and Geography.

Named as “less than effective” academic programs were ATLAS (Alliance for Technology, Learning And Society) and Comparative Literature. DiStefano said he expects ATLAS to rebound soon after a period of instability and change in leadership, and that comparative literature could be best served as an offering of a different program, rather than as a free-standing one.

Among non-academic programs, the Candidates for Enrichment were: Office for Performance Improvement, Admissions, Veteran Services, Disability Services, Student Financial Aid Programs, Office of Research Integrity (ORI) and Office of the Registrar.

Those non-academic programs requiring further review were: Faculty and Staff Assistance Program (FSAP); Fee-Funded Programs; Planning, Budget and Analysis; and the Alumni Association.

DiStefano said programs needing significant attention will be evaluated further, with the aim of addressing what immediate action must be taken in order to improve performance.

A CU-Boulder Campus Town Hall meeting is set for 1 p.m. Friday, May 2, in Old Main Chapel; Provost Russ Moore and Senior Vice Chancellor Kelly Fox will lead the session. Click here for more information.

From the UCCS findings:

Named as “exemplary” academic programs were: Health Care Sciences (BS), Psychology (BA), Geography & Environmental Studies (BA), Psychology (MA), Psychology (PHD), Mechanical Engineering (BS) and Physics (BS).

Listed as academic programs requiring further study were: Interdisciplinary Sciences (MSc), Political Science (BA), Communication (MA), Engineering (ME), Applied Math (MS), Economics (BA) and Distributed Studies (BA).

The “exemplary” non-academic programs: Chancellor's Office & Administration, VCAF Administration, Admissions & Records, Public Safety, Financial Aid, Facilities & Construction, Kraemer Family Library.

Non-academic programs requiring further study: Office of Harassment & Discrimination, Gerontology Center, Career Center, Heller Center, Food Services, Legal Counsel, Honors Program, Development, Homeland Security, EPIIC (El Pomar Institute for Innovation and Commercialization, formerly CITTI), NISSSC (National Institute of Science, Space and Security Centers) Space Studies Center, Small Business Development Center, Center for Government & Individual.

Shockley-Zalabak said the findings will influence development of the campus’s 2015-16 budget; among future action planned is for leadership to meet with all programs in the “Further Study” areas to determine action based on quality, leadership, structure, resources, enrollment (retention and degree conferral), productivity, services provided, criticality to mission, and potential.